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This story is No. 2 in the series "Waifs and strays". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: The second (much longer) installment in the Waifs and Strays AU. Covers season 1. Please READ THE SERIES INTRODUCTION!

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Multiple Crossings > Joyce-Centered(Current Donor)vidiconFR1598780,0851591496402,17528 May 115 Jul 14No

The Happy Return

Author’s Note:

Thanks very much to my Beta, Letomo.

The following ways of notation may be found in this story. This is excluding whatever I need to represent chatting, texting and stuff like that. And you can thank Twilightwanderer for the Abbott and Costello.

Speech: “Who’s on first.”

Thought: *What’s on second.*

Vision: #I-don’t-know’s on third.#

Thanks very much to all of you who reviewed, it is much appreciated. If I haven’t answered your review all I can think of is that the site wasn’t cooperating again. I back check about once a week. Remember, like or dislike, reviews are the only way to show it.

Again, many thanks to Cordyfan for lending me this format, making the story easier to read.

Please also remember that this is not the Magical Halloween episode.

57 The Happy Return

Tara looked down at her costume, which she admitted, was pretty nice. She’d never particularly seen herself as Alice in Wonderland, only having read the book, but it did seem to suit her. She looked with a little bit of disappointment and jealousy at Willow and Dave, who were kissing as if they were going to be parted for years, not the few hours needed to escort the children.

Buffy stood next to Xander, swinging her fake gun, her blonde hair in ringlets, her leather skirt and cowboy boots and fringed shirt causing some confusion in Tara’s mind. She sidled over to the pair, taking in the long wig and moustache and beard that Xander was wearing with his own hat and buckskin Western outfit.

Buffy grinned at her. “If Rhett and Scarlett had acted like that, they never would have split up.”

Tara giggled. Her grandmother had given her a crash course in ‘normal American life’ which had among other things, included seeing Gone with the Wind. Three times. “I t-thought it was t-them! Err…W-who are y-you s-supposed t-to b-be?”

Buffy grinned. “Annie Oakley and Buffalo Bill.” She noted Tara’s confused expression. “Jeez, where were you raised?”

“I-in a r-religious c-community in t-the O-Ozarks.” Tara replied defensively. “I-I w-wasn’t allowed t-to r-read, e-even, b-but m-my M-Mom t-taught m-me.”

Buffy blushed and groaned. Xander rolled his eyes. “Don’t mind Miss Foot-in-Mouth here, she’s been hanging around me too long. If you have any questions about who we all are, just ask.”

Tara nodded and then goggled as Dawn came stampeding down the stairs, her hair in an elaborate coiffure and wearing a gorgeous yellow dress.

Buffy smiled. “Dawn’s in Disney, Belle, from Beauty and the Beast.” The bell rang and Buffy hurried to open it, revealing Janice and her mother, Janice wearing a Snow White costume. The young girls squeed and immediately started comparing costumes.

Amy clunked down the stairs on her Geta, obviously unused to the high soled hard wooden footwear, wearing a Geisha outfit that had come straight out of the Mikado and looked stunning on her. Xander swallowed audibly. Tara’s eyes went from Willow to Amy and she lightly bit her lip.

Clarice and Arlene followed, with Evy behind them, looking subdued and worried. Clarice was dressed as a Flapper. Arlene was wearing a white, flimsy dress that flowed to the ground, but the long slits up to her thighs made it seem as if it barely covered anything, and seemed to be held together by a skull pin at her considerable cleavage. Her skin was dyed blue, while Evy wore a costume that Xander immediately identified as Rogue from the X-men. Which probably meant that Arlene was Mystique.

He chuckled. “Appropriate.”

Arlene tossed her flaming hair. “We thought so.” She leaned over and grabbed Evy in a hug.  James arrived from the basement, wearing a Native American outfit that seemed to blend several cultures.

Willow tilted her head. “That’s a bit mixed up, you know.”

“Yes, I do know. So am I, after all. I may be a half blood, but I do have a lot of different tribes in me.” James replied placidly.

Willow flushed. “Sorry, I forgot.” Her eyes widened. “Wait, then all of that is all real?” Her voice reached an excited pitch.

“Yes.”  James looked at the red head in some amusement as the girl started circling him and tried to identify the tribes he had blood ties to and his standing with them by looking at his clothes and accoutrements.

“Oh, wow, you’re a Shaman!” Willow gushed upon seeing a particular set of beads. She leaned forward to look more closely at his medicine pouch, her arms behind her back to prevent herself from touching it.

James smiled. “I’ll show it to you later, shall I?”

Xander grinned. “And tell us stories of your people.” Buffy groaned and boffed him lightly on the back of the head.

The door opened and a tall, pale woman with deep red hair and nearly luminescent blue eyes stood in the doorway. Tara jumped up and ran to her. “M-mom!”

The tall woman hugged the girl, kissing her forehead, a few tears leaking from her closed eyes.

Janet Fraiser looked at the scene and wondered if she would ever have a daughter who would love her as much, and as unconditionally, as Tara loved Eileen.

Joyce pushed Kit forward and saw the relief in the faces of Janet and Dawn, and then the girl was buried in hugs.

Simon clapped his hands. “Now, if everybody would please finish getting dressed, after Trick-or-Treating, the Manor has been prepared for a party.”

Joyce opened her mouth to protest and Simon smiled at her. “And all the food you prepared will be taken there. Now go and change. Your costume is on the bed…”

Joyce growled, but moved to the stairs. Simon walked to the kitchen, to put his costume on in the basement.

“Piper, just stop complaining, it looks great on you and who cares that a bunch of teenage boys drool over you? I mean, all that means is that you’re hot.” Phoebe said.

Eileen very gently pushed Tara’s jaw up as the blonde girl took in the three Halliwell sisters as they descended the stairs. Prue had dyed her hair or was wearing a red wig and dressed in the tight fitting, caped costume of Batgirl. Phoebe had put on the skintight white, red, and black costume of Harley Quinn and Piper was pouting in a very well fitting Catwoman outfit.

Penelope followed, in a severe black dress and her hair in a bun. “Who am I supposed to be?” She asked the world at large. “All I know is Xander handed this to me and said it was fitting.”

Arlene giggled. “Agatha Harkness, a very old and powerful witch from Marvel comics.”

Penelope turned her piercing gaze on Xander. “Very old?” She asked in a stern voice.

Xander tore his own eyes away from his cousins’ shapely forms as Buffy’s elbow thudded into his side. “Err. And very powerful. Much respected. Err. Still very attractive?”

Penelope’s eyebrows raised at the last sentence and Xander flushed.

Joyce snickered. “I’m going to dress. You can save yourself from this, Xander. I’ll see you at the Manor, have fun with the kids.”

Xander whimpered.

Clarice smiled. “I’ll help you, Kit; Arlene, you’d better help Joyce. We wouldn’t want Simon to be disappointed.”

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“Commodore Sir Horatio and Lady Barbara Hornblower are happy to welcome you to their House at Hooghwater Manor and to offer you a Diner Dansant.” Buffy read from the engraved invitation. “So, that’s the books that Mom keeps reading?”

The car drew up in front of Hooghwater as she spoke and the girls looked up at the brightly lit house.

Willow nodded. “Yup, C.S. Forrester. Oh, wow.”

The door to the house opened and Joyce stood, in a flowing, Greek inspired, pale green silk George II period dress, back lit by the great chandelier in the Manor’s great hall. Her hair was held back by an elegant tiara and she opened her arms, a beaming smile on her face. Simon stepped up behind her, wearing the uniform of a British naval officer of the Napoleonic era, complete with the Star and Ribbon of the order of the Bath. Joyce half turned and smiled at him, before turning back to the arriving cars.

“Welcome, honoured guests! Welcome!”

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“You are late, Cordelia.” Victor Chase spoke softly, for his daughter’s ears only, as his guests milled about in the hall and living room of Chase Manor.

Cordelia rose on her toes and kissed his cheek. “Sorry I’m late, Daddy, I had to help with escorting the elementary school kids.”

Victor beamed at her. “That’s alright, honey, but please call next time, okay?”

“Oops. Sorry, Dad.” Cordelia said sheepishly. “I forgot. I lost track of things chasing after some pirates.”

An older gentleman laughed. “A very laudable thing to do. Wendy Darling?” He commented on Cordelia’s costume.

Cordelia made a moue. “I lost a bet to a friend. She went as Tinkerbelle.”

The older gentleman smiled. “Well I’m sure you two cut a swathe through the hearts of many Lost Boys.”

Cordelia smiled back. “I’m sure they’ll get over it in twenty years or so.”

The older gentleman laughed and wandered off, glass in hand. Victor Chase put a hand on his daughter’s shoulder. “I told you to be on time. We will ‘discuss’ this later, Cordelia.” Victor smiled brightly and kissed Cordelia’s forehead, before walking away to mingle.

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“Are you alright, Xander?” Simon asked, worriedly. Xander had ran into the Manor at high speed and scampered into the library to hide, nestling himself on one of the large leather couches, covering himself in pillows.

Xander groaned and buried his face under the pillow of the couch. “Go away and let me die of shame in peace.”

“Xander? What happened?” Simon sat down and looked at the obviously hideously embarrassed boy.

“We met Cordelia, Harmony and the Twins.”

“Yes? And?”

“And Mrs. Kendall was there too.”

“Eliza? Yes?”

“She was dressed as Emma Frost.” Xander whimpered.

Simon blinked. “Ah. You expressed your admiration for her costume and appearance?”

“I practically drooled over her boots. White, thigh high leather boots. White leather corset.” Xander groaned at the memory.

“I see. I take it all your sisters saw this?”

“Half the school saw it!”

“Hmm. Well I fear all I can say is that Eliza Kendall is a striking woman even in normal day wear. I doubt that many of the young men at Sunnydale High were unaffected. Did you react in a similar fashion to any other woman or girl?’

“DAD!!! Isn’t one bad enough?” Xander whined.

“If you didn’t you can try and blame it on the magnificent accuracy of her costume.”

“Will that work?” Xander asked hopefully.

“Xander, at this time, any type of plausible deniability is a thing to embrace.” Simon pointed out.

Xander groaned. “I’m just glad there’s no footage.”

“Hmm. Just sit here and calm down and join us when you feel better.”

“Okay. I will. Thanks Dad.”

Simon closed the door behind him and faced Buffy and Willow, who were looking rather guilty. “Was that all the recordings?” He asked sternly.

Buffy pouted. “Yes. And that was prime blackmail material, I’ll have you know. What do we get for handing it over?”

“Not spanked.” Joyce, coming up behind them, said dryly. “There will be no blackmailing siblings, cousins or other family members. Understood?”

Buffy nodded, contrite. “I was only joking.”

“I know honey, but how would you feel in Xander’s place? Now go have fun, Mike and Dave are looking for you.”

Joyce looked at Simon and held out a hand. He took it. “You destroyed the film and video?”

“Yes. I admit I did watch them first.”

Joyce chuckled. “Did he really…?”

Simon nodded solemnly. “He really said it.”

Joyce sighed. “Well, that explains Eliza’s blush.” *And her ever so secretly expressed delight that she still has it…* “Hubba-hubba hot momma, indeed.”

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“Off with her head!” Mary Beckforth intoned grandly as she gazed at Tara with benevolence, waving her scepter. Eileen giggled, pushing her hare ears back a little, looking down on her younger sister, who scowled up at her from underneath the rim of her top hat.

“Why do I have to be the Hatter?” Janet asked crossly.

“Because the costume fits nobody else, dear.” Mary pointed out while adjusting her décolletage.

Tara grinned and looked at her Aunt. “Sorry Aunt Janet, next year I’m sure you can wear something feminine.”

“And it will look great on you.” Eileen assured her sister. “But there is something to be said for a beautiful woman in a top hat and dress coat, hhmm, Tara?”

“Oh yes, I mean…” Tara’s eyes widened in her scarlet face as she looked from her mother to her grandmother to her blushing aunt. “Eileen!” Janet hissed. “Stop that!”

Eileen sighed. “Janet, Tara likes girls. I’ve known this for a while. The fact that she thinks that I would love her less if I knew is something that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.” Eileen stepped forward and grinned at Tara. “And with all the advances in IVF and stuff, I’ll probably still get grandchildren.”

Tara blushed from her to neck. “MOM!!!” She tried to duck behind her hair but Eileen stopped her.

“There’s no need for that, dear. I love you, I love you the way you are. Now, let’s go out and have some fun.” She took Tara’s hand and led her out of the room.

Janet moved to stand next to her mother. “I-is this normal?”

“Hmmm? Well, Danielle tells me she and Penelope felt quite, err…high for a day or two, after they got healed, so probably yes.”

“Oh. So she’ll go back to being her grumpy old self soon?”

Mary snickered. “Probably. But you usually did do something to earn her displeasure, you know.”

“Like what?”

“How many times did you ‘accidentally’ walk in on her and Jimmy Bellowski?”

“Ah. Ummm.”

“And the ketchup you almost dropped on her prom dress? If that had landed, by the way, you would not have sat down comfortably for a week.”

Janet gulped. “That was an acci-.” Her mother’s look made her cringe. “Okay. So I was a little bitch. Should I apologize?”

“You were a jealous pre-teen and thought I loved you less than her. And I think talking to her will be enough.

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Wednesday Morning, November 2nd 1995, SunnydaleMuseum of Natural History

Prue yawned as she pulled the green velvet taut over the plywood board and Piper stapled it down. Phoebe was helping slapping Papier-mâché on a wire framework. A couple of assistants and workers were of to the side, building up a floor and chalking outlines for the locations of the displays. Grams was still sleeping, exhausted by the rituals of the previous day followed by a late night.

“I knew we shouldn’t have gone to the Bronze after the kids went to bed.” Prue groaned.

Piper snorted. “We warned you, Prue. But no, you just had to celebrate your new position as West Coast Liaison for the Meier Foundation for the Arts. With gin.”

Phoebe grinned as Prue glowered at Piper. “Oh, and Miss Pussycat did not have fun teasing half a bar full of College jocks?” Prue snarkily replied.

“Meooooow!” Phoebe supplied. “Kitty was in heat last night.”

Piper blushed. “I wasn’t the one doing a lap dance on the Joker!”

Phoebe grinned. “Ah, but I don’t feel embarrassed by it.” She glooped a handful of the glue laden paper onto the chicken wire and hummed. “I’m not certain what I’m building, but its quite fun.”   

“Part of the exhibition, I think a fake wall. So, this going to be your new career? Psychology no longer attractive? They’ve got a huge pottery kiln here too, you can teach the visitors all about pottery.” Prue asked with a sneer.

“Actually, I talked with Joyce about it, and Grams, you know, not as Grams, but as a psychologist. So I’m going to change more to clinical psychology, so I can help people. I don’t really want to know the things that drive people, just the things that help them.” Phoebe looked uncharacteristically thoughtful.

Prue and Piper exchanged looks. It seemed that the directionless Phoebe was at least starting to find her way.

Prue smiled and winked at Piper. “Well you seemed pretty eager to help the Joker with his problem last night…”

Phoebe grinned. “Well, it was such a big problem; I felt I really couldn’t refuse…”

Prue groaned. Piper sighed. “Really, Prue, you should know better by now.”

Prue waved in acknowledgement. “I’m going over there and help José, just don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”

Phoebe grinned. “Does that limit my options, or expand them?”

Piper giggled as Prue gritted her teeth and walked off.

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Matthew Duncan eyed the girl in the chair in front of his desk with some interest. After the latest problems with the County Office of Social Services he’d been detached from the LA office to take charge, as he already had a passing familiarity with some of the cases and the inadequacies of the Sunnydale Social Services. He looked at the letter she had sent, asking for permission to accompany a Social Services agent and the accompanying letter from her Psychology and sociology professors. 

“It says here you have a scholarship from Berkeley, Miss Matthews. Might I ask why you are here in Sunnydale?”

Matt noted the girl bit her lip in an obvious nervous gesture. “Well, I read about Sunnydale, and there being problems here with Social Services. And err…the rent is lower and I can’t spend too much…” She swallowed.

Matt looked at the letter that the psychology professor had sent as well, stating that Miss Matthews’ parents had been killed in a car crash the year before and that the insurance companies were in a legal battle and both refused to make a pay out, but that otherwise she seemed to be strong and on an even keel.

“Very well. You’ll be accompanying me.”

The girl opened her mouth to protest.

“You’re not just here to learn about people, but also to learn about paperwork, aren’t you? And about falling down on the job. You’re here to see what happens when Social Services screw up. And I can show you.” He reached into a drawer and drew out a number of forms. “Sign these, they’ll allow you limited access to certain files. Read them first and come see me tomorrow if you still want to do this.”

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The Bancroft Library at UCLA Berkeley was an Archeologist’s, or at least Egyptologist’s, dream. Perhaps not as wonderful a dream as free access to the stacks at the British Museum, or the British Library, perhaps not as unattainable a dream as the Bibliotheca Secreta, the Private Library of the Meier Family Foundation, but a good enough dream for Sam to leave Daniel alone while she went to visit the Astronomy and physics library at Le Conte Hall. There were things she wanted to read up on, and the General had agreed to let them wait with officially notifying Major Ellis until the next week. The Colonel had gotten sidetracked by something that the General apparently thought important enough not to complain and Major Davis had been called in to assist with another project, currently deemed more important.    

It had been a while since Sam last had the chance to read up on her colleagues work and see what she could apply to her own work, especially now that the Stargate was open. She hummed a little and tried to scratch her itching arm through the bandage as she made her way through the elegantly laid out Campus.

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A man and a woman entered the Peruvian wing and maneuvered around the displays being assembled, ignoring the workers who nodded at them and murmured greetings. Prue looked up and stepped up to meet them.

“Roger. What are you doing here?” Prue spat. “And who…” She fell silent, her eyes going wide and her mouth falling open.

Phoebe and Piper gawped. “Holy shit.” Phoebe muttered. “It’s another Prue.”

Roger cleared his throat. “Brenda, this is Prudence Halliwell the former subordinate I told you about, Prue, this is Brenda Walsh.”

Brenda Walsh extended a gracious hand her eyes still slightly wide in shock at the resemblance to the other woman. “Good afternoon, Miss Halliwell. Who are your friends?”

“My sisters. Piper and Phoebe. What are you doing here Roger?” Prue grated out.

“Why isn’t it obvious? Since you are no longer employed by the Museum it was thought wise to send an actual representative here. I’m sure that the Sunnydale Natural History Museum will honour your hard work with a minor mention in the exhibition guide, despite your irregular position.” Roger replied smugly.

Prue gritted her teeth. “You know nothing at all about the Moche and Inca civilizations, Roger.”

“Ah, that may be true. But at least I have credibility.” Roger smirked.

Prue’s face was thunderous and Piper put a restraining hand on her sister’s shoulder. “Come on, Prue, let’s go for a walk.”

Phoebe smiled evilly. “Well Roger, I suggest you enjoy what you have for as long as you can.” She waved cheerily and followed her sisters.

Phoebe caught up with her sisters, who were sitting on a bench outside the museum and grinned at Prue. “Sheesh, Prue, could that guy be any more creepy? I mean, except for the slut quotient that bitch looked just like you.”

Piper snorted. “Slut quotient? Do they teach that at the University these days?”

Phoebe smiled. “Nah, picked that one up on the streets. But why are you so upset, Prue? I mean, a few more days and your appointment is official and the Museum of Natural History finds out just who they’re messing with.”

Piper sighed. “I think the fact Roger used her and the fact he has girlfriend who looks just like her are more important to her right now than that, Phoebe.”

Phoebe flushed and sank down at Prue’s other side. “Yeah, okay, sorry. She is amazingly like you.”

“Looks like her. Did you see the way she looked at José and the others? I mean, I give dog doings more attention.” Piper pointed out.

Prue giggled. “Graphic. Well, you’re right, I knew Roger was a sleaze already, he’s just shown himself to be an even bigger sleaze.”

Phoebe snorted. “I’d lay bets the bastard was hoping to get both of you in bed, at the same time.”

Prue’s face twisted. “Ugh, you just had to go there. Come on, lets go back in before they destroy the exhibits.”

The three sisters went back inside. Roger was standing by their bags and hastily moved away from them. Prue noticed her bag was standing open and strode towards it, making a quick check. The envelope from the Meier Foundation for the Arts had been thrust carelessly back and had bent double. She turned towards Roger and sneered. “Found what you were looking for, Roger? Well done. Now go in the next room and help unpack some of the grave gifts with the mummy. And you’d better be more careful with them than with my stuff.”

Roger flushed and left, Brenda trailing, but looking back occasionally at the woman who was so amazingly like her.

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Kit was looking at the cast on her arm unhappily. It was fake and quite easy to remove, but it still itched. “Why do I have to wear this?” She complained to Joyce, who was brushing her newly washed hair. 

“Because Social Services will be by pretty soon to see how you are doing after your condition taking a turn for the worse. It will be difficult enough to make you look ill with the thing, let alone without it.” Joyce pointed out.

“Oh, yes. They’d ask questions.” Kit looked thoughtful. “It was pretty bad, wasn’t I? So what are you going to tell them?”

“Happily Simon owns a few pharmaceutical and medical technology companies, not to mention the stock in others. He’ll be very apologetic about using non-FDA approved methods on you, but adamant that he was not going to let you die without trying.”

Kit gulped. “D-die? I-I was that bad? I though the magic was just…easier?”

“No Kit, it was very bad.” Joyce put her arms around Kit and hugged her close. “Simon doesn’t like using magic to heal people, there’s usually a price. He told me there are some witches who can heal with less risk, but they are very, very rare. And some other beings, but he doesn’t like them very much.” Joyce kissed the top of Kit’s head, and then turned the girl round to kiss her forehead and hug her again. Kit sighed and let herself sink into her foster mother’s embrace.

“Ms. Summers?” She said after a few minutes.

Joyce shook herself. “Sorry Kit, I’ll let you go, I just…seeing you so ill…”

“No, that’s alright, I like it.” Kit said hastily. “Just, you said if I wanted something, and it wasn’t unreasonable…”

“The candy will remain under my control. I told you and Dawn, and Janice that eating that much so fast was going to make you ill, but would you listen?” There was humour in Joyce’s scold and Kit grinned, a little embarrassed.

“Yeah, I know, but that’s not it. C-can we get Mom an urn?”

Joyce’s voice caught in her throat. “Oh, Kit…Of course. As soon as we can have you on the streets without people wondering, we’ll go buy one.”

Kit nestled her head against Joyce’s shoulder and cried. After a few minutes she accepted the tissue Joyce gave her and blew her nose, and accepted another to wipe her eyes. “I-I went into Mrs. Kirby’s shop with Mom once, there’s some there. Mom liked one of them. But it was really expensive.”

“We’ll go there soon. How much was it?”

“F-fifty dollars? I hope that isn’t too much?” Kit asked anxiously.

“Oh, Kit. No, it isn’t.” Joyce hugged Kit and very quietly wept.

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“Okay, so we have to put up a Peruvian girl. I can live with that.” Xander said around the huge mouthful of ham and cheese sandwich he was eating.

Willow elbowed him softly. “Xander, don’t eat like that! And don’t talk with your mouth full.”

Buffy grinned. “Yeah, if Mom saw that, she’d have a cow.”

“However, I could live even better with it if it were a nice, nerdy comic book lover. And a male.”

Buffy, Willow and Amy gave him a long look each. “Oookaaay. So who are you and what have you done to Xander?”

“I’m Xander. I’m Xander who lives in the same house as his four younger sisters, his mother and four cousins and an Aunt and feels mightily put upon by all the females in the household. No offense, Dave, you don’t live there.” Xander said with dignity. It was rather marred by the mustard running down his chin.  

Cordelia passed their table just then and sniffed. “I see your manners haven’t improved, Harris. You still eat like a hog, raised by hogs.”

“Well, you should know, you’ve been living high on it for years.” Xander replied while wiping the mustard off with his paper napkin.

Cordelia walked away, not paying further attention to the five seated at the table.

“Yeah, she likes me.” Xander said with a sad smile on his face. Willow replied with a similar smile, both remembering Jesse and his crush on the gorgeous brunette.

Amy, seeing the expressions, changed the subject to the need to avoid having to perform in the Christmas Play.

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Cecelia was crying as she cradled the white gem in her hands, her face a mixture of rage and grief. James was standing behind her, his hands on her shoulders and Penelope had her hands hovering over Cecelia’s.

“How do we tell her?” Cecelia whispered to her husband.

“I don’t know love. I just don’t know.” James’s face was calm, but his eyes were dark with suppressed rage.

Penelope’s mouth was set in a hard line and her face was filled with disgust. “Well, at least with this stone we can learn the weaknesses of the enchantment. And knowing those, we can take steps to break the gems and release the souls.”

“But Charlotte and Harry…”

James gritted his teeth. “It’s likely all…” There was a ‘whoosh’ outside and a couple of leaves missed by Dawn in her raking flew up. James took a deep breath. “All the children they lost were in fact murdered so their souls could be stolen. Simon is looking into that, to see if there are any common factors.”

“Doctor Rackham, he was at every birth, was her obstetrician during every pregnancy.” Cecilia said. Then she looked anxiously at her sister. “Well?”

“I keep getting a feeling of loneliness for the ‘other’ and ‘Mommy’ and ‘Gwen-Jen’. Sorry.”

“One of the twins…Gwendolyn or Genevieve.” Cecelia smiled at the white, glowing stone. “Don’t worry love, Gran has you and will keep you safe. The bad men won’t hurt you anymore.”  

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Lilith Sternin looked with a certain amount of satisfaction around the cabin of the Learjet that Simon had put at her disposal. It was really rather interesting to know that the former Grand Magister did indeed defer to her and was willing to put his considerable fortune at her disposal, or at least the Concordat’s, should it be needed. And a man caught with a soul gem containing a Warren witch’s soul did qualify. It was rare that a High Magister could not call a conclave to try crimes within his or her own See, but in this case both the former and the current High Magister had a personal interest. Though if what she feared was true, every family in the Concordat would have reason to hate these people. It was going to be a dark time. She’d set the Secretariat to find out how many Magical families had had late miscarriages or still births in the past twenty-five years and to correlate that date with the general median of the same socio-economic groups. She’d always been a bit annoyed at Simon’s insistence at itemizing things, part of his Dutch heritage she supposed, but now she was rather grateful.  

It would help them to determine the damage, and then it would help them destroy the bastards who inflicted it.

Lilith sighed. It was not going to be pleasant to delve into the mind of a man who had done things like this. It would be like swimming in tar, impossible to keep clean.

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Mary Beckforth was knitting and looking at the six men in the room, who were busily writing their confessions, like she had asked them to do. Occasionally one of them would frown and she would encourage him, and more secrets were written down. It was tiring work and not the most pleasant use of her talent. Not to mention it skirted dangerously close to breaking the laws of the Concordat, even if the previous and current Grand Magisters had both agreed that it was necessary. Mary looked as Lucien Drake started writing the list of souls he had stolen and which he had sold to the Lords Below. He seemed quite proud of his actions even now. After this, she’d have him write the names of his accomplices.

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“Look at this.” Roger said contemptuously as he hefted a thick earthenware seal painted with figures and stylized forms. “Can’t anyone see that this is a total fake? What morons sent this here?”

He took the circular slab and slammed it on the edge of the table, startling the Halliwell sisters and the museum workers. The light glaze cracked and the earthenware snapped and fragmented. “See, the clay is far too light for it to be original, it’s a copy. So much for the so called uniqueness of this find. I bet the mummy is a fake too.”

Prue stepped up and read the ID number on the chest, took her list, and then reached in to pick up a box. “Broken fragments of the original seal, and a replica seal, by the hand of Dr. Lord Carnahan. Well done Roger, you’ve just broken the handiwork of one of the twentieth century’s greatest archeologists.”

Roger blinked down at the fragments. “Oh. Err.”

“Yes. Well done. Well done indeed. I’m sure the Director of the Sunnydale Museum and of the San Francisco Museum will just love the excuses you can come up with.” Prue smiled. “I’m sure you’ll come up with some doozies, but please remember,” she pointed up at a security camera. “It’s all on tape.”

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Aeropuerto Internacional Jorge Chávez had a good reputation for safety and emergency response. The young woman who slipped and fell, as she was running to her Boarding Gate, was immediately taken to the hospital. Her luggage, already boarded and marked for onward shipping, travelled to LAX without her. Her heavy concussion confused her for days and her parents were too upset to call to the people who were supposed to meet her in the United States.  

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Valley Palace Hotel

“Really Roger, I don’t see why I have to come with you to get a hold of that surveillance video. You screwed up, admit to it. There were witnesses-.”

“But hardly impartial ones. Prue had gotten a letter from the Meier Foundation, probably dashing her last hopes, so she can easily be discredited, and her sisters? Siblings as independent witnesses? And the workers here, I doubt they’d care to appear in court, they’re probably mostly illegal immigrants.” Roger grinned evilly. “And I don’t have a key…officially that is, but Prue does.”

Brenda rolled her eyes. “Roger, I’ve just decided that whatever Prue Halliwell might be, she’s completely right in thinking you’re useless scum. I’m going down to the lobby and ask for a separate room. I expect you’ll be gone when I get back, I’ll get my clothes and stuff then. Don’t ever bother me again.” She strode off, slamming the door behind her.

Roger glared at the door. “Bitch. I’ll make certain you get yours.”

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Night had fallen on Sunnydale and all the scum was out. This included vampires, demons and Tony Harris. It also included Roger Pritchett.

Roger stood looking at the back of the Museum and then entered the museum through a back door, moving quickly along the dark and deserted corridors until they reached the central Peruvian exhibit room. The security office was in the basement and the stairs to it could be reached from there. Roger wanted to make sure he had taken note of all the cameras before he went to acquire the recordings.

Roger wandered through the exhibit, his eyes and hand everywhere, touching, feeling, wondering at age and especially at price and cost.   

A large crate stood horizontally on a pair of trestles, it’s lid standing against one side, piles of wrapping material on the floor beside it. Roger moved to look into it. A mummy was lying on a bed of velvet and polystyrene, bits of packing still around her. Roger reached out to touch the dry, old skin. “Not much for moisturizing, are you? And damn ugly too.”  

Roger bent forward. “Hmm. Don’t think you’ve got anything truly valuable, everything you own looks rather tac-.” The mummy surged upwards, grasping Roger’s face, placing her dried out lips on the man’s. Roger let out a strangled gasp. It was the last noise he ever made. The surveillance video made a clattering noise as it fell to the ground.

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Tony liked hanging out at the bus stop. It offered him opportunities to check out the new girls arriving in Sunnydale. New girls were less likely to know his reputation. New girl used to all before his boyish charm, until his beer drinking habits expanded his waistline and blurred his features. Sometimes the new girls did not fall, but the bus stop was quite distant and sometimes, if he was careful, he did not need his boyish charm but his manly brute strength. And the nightlife would take care of the evidence. Tony Harris smirked. *Never thought the stupid bloodsuckers would be useful for something.*  Tony belched. The bus drove up, discharging a few passengers. The driver got out and unloaded a couple of suitcases with airfreight stickers. The bus drove off again. A slender figure moved up to the stacked suitcases, female by its shape, seemingly not wearing too much and Tony grinned as she furtively opened the cases and started rifling through them. *Bingo. Lets see how little Miss Thief reacts to a little blackmail.*  

Tony walked towards the girl and smiled. “Well now, I don’t think those are yours. How are you gonna pay for the-.” His words were cut off as powerful hands seized his shoulders and dragged him in for the kiss of death. The last sound Tony Harris made was a frightened whimper.  

End note:

Brenda Walsh, played by Shannen Doherty on Beverly Hills 90210 is not my property.

The Happy return is the title of a novel by C. S. Forester, the creator of Hornblower and Lady Barbara. I highly recommend all his books.
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